was in despair. Never before had he felt himself so cornered. He was trapped
with no obvious solution in sight.
If King Arthur found out that he had allowed for a nymph to escape from the Grimoire book, then he would be surely hanged and quartered. Camelot demanded for him to seal away all the beasts in Britain, but the very fact that he had enough power to do that made them fear him even more. A single mistake on his part would constitute to high treason.
Yet at the same time, he could not force Asha to go back into the Grimoire book. This would require him to undo the magic that kept the Grimoire book shut. Once he did that, then all the demons would escape.
He thought of killing her or forcing her to remain unconscious for the rest of his life, but her magic caused for his human man inside him to feel an unbearable tenderness towards her. And even though Merlin knew that the stir in his chest was created by her, he found it hard to ignore.
He could not hurt her even if he wanted to.
For now, all he could do was confine her to his bed with a barrier he had set up around his bed. This allowed for him to remove one of the two runes that kept his human blood suppressed, easing the burden on his body.
“Are you going to keep me trapped here forever?” Asha asked and approached the barrier. She tried to stick her hand through it, but an invisible force pushed her back.
Merlin gazed out of the tiny window he had built for himself. Glass was the greatest treasure in the entire kingdom and King Arthur had once given him a small piece as a gift.
It was the only gift he ever received from anyone.
The moon was glowing high in the sky. Normal humans would be afraid of wolves if they were in the middle of this forest at night, but not Merlin. Even the wolves could sense the demonic blood in his veins. Especially tonight it was stronger than usual as the rune on his hand stimulated it.
“Hey! How long are you going to keep me here for?”
Merlin turned to Asha.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t let you out because I know that you will suck out the life of other men, and neither can I persuade you to go back inside the Grimoire book.”
“Why do you care if other men die?” Asha asked. “You said that those humans killed your mother.”
“I don’t care if they die,” Merlin said, giving her a peek at how coldblooded he could be. “But if the townsfolk found out that a nymph was preying on their men, I’ll would be charged with high treason.”
He looked at her very seriously. “I would be dead before sunrise.”
“Truly?” Asha grinned as if she enjoyed this thought.
“Aye, truly, you wicked nymph.”
“And you think you can keep me locked in here forever? Your barrier will weaken if you fall asleep.”
“I will strengthen it before I sleep,” Merlin replied and lied down on the ground.
Since he lived alone and never expected any visitors, he only had one straw mattress, pillow and blanket. And they were all with Asha.
“If you lower the barrier, you can have your bed back,” Asha offered with a kind smile.
“I am a lonely fool, but I’m not a complete idiot,” Merlin frowned. “You can have my bed.”
“Hmph, what a boring man,” Asha commented and turned away.
She watched as Merlin drew three extra runes that would slowly feed the barrier with magic while he was asleep.
The next morning, Merlin ripped his eyes open. Normally he would sleep for as long as he wanted, but this time, he had a visitor. His heart pounded the entire time and he had cast a sleeping spell on himself in order to sleep.
“Hnghhh....ahhhh!” a sweet moan sounded in his ear.
Merlin immediately got up. Had the barrier been torn down by Asha? Why was she making these lust-filled sounds to seduce him?
“Haaaaang!” she cried.
Merlin watched her as she was curled up on his bed, tightly wrapped in his blanket. Her entire body was shivering and she was sweating as if she had a high fever. Her eyes were tightly shut and she bit on her arm to make the pain more bearable.
Calm down, Merlin told himself. He prepared for the onslaught of her seduction magic, but to his surprise, Asha’s lust filled moans were not laced with her magic. She was simply crying out in pain.
“Asha...are you all right?” he asked and knocked on the barrier.
“Ahhh!” Asha whimpered and her long straight hair fell to the side, allowing Merlin to see her arm.
Her entire forearm was covered in bite marks. Had she been in pain the entire night?
“Asha?” Merlin asked and tried to reach out for her. He was about to go through his own barrier, but stopped himself at the last moment. Since the barrier was filled with his own magic, he could go through to join her, but this also meant any magic she used would not be filtered anymore.
“Y-you will get your wish, Merlin,” Asha said with a quivering voice. “I am dying...just like my sisters.”
“Dying!?” Merlin exclaimed. He had simply planned to keep in her in captivity until he knew what to do next. He had no intention for her to die.
“You thought of it before, didn’t you?” Asha said with a weak grin. “If I’m dead, your treason will remain unknown to the king...and you can keep living the life of a lonely Saint...”
Merlin frowned. He had never thought of himself as a Saint. He was not a man of God. In fact, the Church was his greatest enemy. Had it not been for King Arthur, the Church would have burned him on a stake already.
He kneeled down and carefully observed Asha. His first thought was that she was pretending to be sick so that he would let her out. And the moment he dissolved the barrier, she would have some sort of magic up her sleeve that she would use to seduce him.
But on the other hand, the weak gaze in her eyes was unfocused. There was only a faint purple glow and she was sweating as if she had a high fever.
Merlin bit on his lower lip. He didn’t know what to do. On one hand, he knew what Asha said was right. If she was truly sick and he let her die, then his problems would be solved. Yet at the same time, looking at her, Merlin could not help but feel a throbbing in his chest. He could not bear to see her in this condition. Even though she had tried to kill him the moment they met, she was the first person who ever had a lengthy conversation with him. Asha did not fear him, in fact she mocked him.
“Why are you dying?” he asked.
Asha opened her eyes and gazed at him weakly. There wasn’t the slightest trace of magic in her eyes anymore.
“The same reason why my sisters are slowly dying in the Grimoire book,” she coughed. Merlin waited for her to calm down so that she could continue. “We cannot survive without the life force of human men. Once a fortnight, we need to feed to maintain our strength and beauty...if we do not…you can see for yourself.”
Merlin nodded. He understood. The life force of human men was to the nymphs like water to him. If he did drink water in three days, then he would be dying too.
“But how come you are still alive?” he asked. “Shouldn’t you and your sisters be all dead in the book?”
“We have a supply of men we took with us, you fool,” Asha smiled weakly. “But the lifespan of human men are much shorter than ours. They will die soon and we will be left without a source of life force for centuries to come.”
Sitting on the floor, Merlin watched Asha wince with pain. He stuck his arm through the barrier to check if Asha was preparing a spell.
Merlin exhaled profoundly. It seemed that Asha was telling the truth. He could not feel any sign of magic in the air inside the filter barrier, yet he could not help but feel suspicious. What if Asha was hiding her magic and was planning to unleash it the moment he believed her?
Asha’s silk robe was soaked in her sweat. It was glistening in the sunlight that came through the tiny window and became entirely transparent. Merlin could see her naked body on his bed.
He took a sharp breath. Her body had changed from what he had seen yesterday. Her voluptuous breasts had vanished and her waist had become thin and childlike. Her thighs had lost their lustrous shape and even the shape of the bones in her arms were visible.
Asha was dying.
“Watch me die,” Asha said. “Don’t you dare look away. You may think of me as a lowly nymph, but give me the dignity of witnessing my death.”
Merlin felt a pang of pain in his chest. Even though he knew that watching Asha die and burying her body was the logical thing to do, he could not bear to watch her suffer like this anymore.
King Arthur and the people of Camelot refused to accept him. The demons rejected him because he was seen as a filthy half-blood. And when he wished for a companion, the Grimoire book sent him Asha the nymph. Perhaps this was a cruel joke his own magic played on him.
Asha was the only person — man or demon — to ever reside with him, even if it was only for one night. His entire life Merlin had sought for a companion and now that he had one, he was going to let her die in order to stay loyal to a king who did not even thank him for his service.
“I’ll be damned,” Merlin muttered and his hands reached for the runes which strengthened the barrier.
“What...are you doing?” Asha breathed. Even speaking was becoming difficult for her now.
“There is a town called Marlborough to the West,” Merlin said while he stroked the rune. “It is a short journey. There should be plenty of young men for you to feed on.”
He closed his eyes and concentrated on the rune. He sucked some magic out of it, leaving just barely enough for the filter barrier to remain intact.
“I will go out for a walk now. I will have carelessly forgotten about strengthening the barrier and it will dissolve. You will then be free to go and do whatever you desire.”
He stood up and poured a water into a wooden cup he had crafted himself.
“Here is some water I have poured for myself but have forgotten to drink. I will place it on the ground.”
Asha watched him in silence as Merlin talked to himself. She had thought that she would be dead for sure, and hence was rather surprised by Merlin’s monologue.
Merlin opened the door and stepped out of the hut.
“Thank you,” Asha whispered.
Merlin didn’t reply. He shut the door and went out into the forest.